Forbes Future of TV NBC

An interview with MSNBC's Manager of Social Media and Community, Nisha Chittal


By Natan Edelsburg, SVP

January 21, 2016 | 5 min read

With election season upon us and a TV news industry that's being forced to change drastically it's not easy to succeed. Nisha Chittal, MSNBC's manager of social media and community has been leading the network into digital success. After being named one of Forbes 30 under 30 in the Media category, Found Remote interviewed her to learn about her success and what it's like running social at a major TV news organization.

Found Remote also asked Farra Kober, the network's Director of Social and Community and Chittal's boss, about hiring her and why she has been an important part of the team.

When I interviewed Nisha for a position at MSNBC it was clear she’d bring a wealth of experience to the company and already knew how to represent a brand through social media channels, but what really stood out to me was her passion for the work, desire to understand what makes an audience engage, and her love for the content being produced at MSNBC. She is someone who truly cares about the stories we are telling and that has made for a much stronger product on the social media team. We work in a fast-paced environment and in an even faster paced medium of story delivery, which is constantly evolving. Nisha has continued to stay cool under the pressure that comes with working in a live news room. It takes a particular person to be able to thrive in this space, and she has continued to serve as a model for the more junior members of our team.

Found Remote: What are your main responsibilities at MSNBC?

Nisha Chittal: I work on shaping our strategy for creating and distributing content for social platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Kik, Tumblr, and more, with an eye towards audience growth and engagement.

This includes thinking about the most effective ways to distribute our content from to grow traffic and site referrals, as well as strategizing about creating new types of content that are designed for native sharing on social media platforms.

I work with our team of social media editors on day-to-day editorial strategy for our channels, monitor online trends for potential story ideas, and track analytics to measure performance and optimize our tactics as needed.

FR: What have been the biggest challenges? Biggest successes?

NC: The biggest challenge is that the field is always evolving and changing and is relatively new, so there’s no real established precedent for many of the things we do in social media – we are always trying new ideas and new tools, and some new ideas work better than others.

I think our team has had some great wins that I’m really proud of, including our Snapchat challenge in partnership with the Global Citizen Festival and our use of Yik Yak for reporting. We’ve also integrated social media into our daily newsgathering process across the network, using tools like Crowdtangle, Dataminr, and Newswhip to find and pitch story ideas from social media communities. I've appeared on air and on our online video channel Shift by MSNBC to discuss trending stories based on some of the discovery tools that we utilize to analyze the performance of 2016 candidates and track topics important to our viewers. Those have a great opportunity to help tell more social media stories on air and really integrate social media into everything we do.

FR: How did you get selected for the Forbes list? Why is it important for you?

NC: Forbes contacted me to inform me that I had been nominated and was being considered for the list; I answered some questions for them, but I didn't know I was selected until the list was published on Monday. So I was definitely surprised and honored.

I know candidates were reviewed and decided upon by a panel of really amazing judges, like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Katie Stanton, and Jim Bankoff, all of whose work I admire a lot, so I was honored they were among the people making the selections.

FR: Anything cool you're working on now?

NC: Platform-native content is a big priority for us this year: thinking about original content created specifically for platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr, and Kik, particularly as it relates to 2016 election coverage.

We've had about a million debates, the primaries are coming up, and the DNC and RNC are this summer, and with MSNBC as “The Place for Politics,” we're planning lots of social media and TV integrations. Also, I'll be writing about the digital side of the 2016 elections whenever I can!

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